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Archive for the ‘Terrorism’ Category

Good insight: The far right embraces violence because it has no real political program

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Suzanne Schneider, a historian at the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research and author of the forthcoming book “The Apocalypse and the End of History,” writes in the Washington Post:

More than a week has passed since a pro-Trump mob overran the U.S. Capitol, but we are still struggling to come to terms with the day’s events. Much of the difficulty stems from the fact that the Trump mob was both menacing and ridiculous, dangerous and utterly delusional. On one hand, there was an absurdist quality to many participants: conspiracy theorists, neo-Nazis, militia members, fans of animal pelts. Yet our cosplaying revolutionaries were not playing at all, leaving five dead and dozens wounded. Some said they were intent on genuine violence: “We will storm the government buildings, kill cops, kill security guards, kill federal employees and agents, and demand a recount,” a user reportedly wrote on 8kun the day before the assault.

We cannot make sense of the Capitol attack simply by trying to assess whether its perpetrators were really out for blood or just acting out a game of make-believe for the benefit of the cameras. The Trump insurrectionists exposed that a politics of spectacle, built upon delusion, is no less dangerous than “the real thing.” Precisely because they lack an affirmative political vision, far-right movements fetishize violence as the premier form of civic participation. It is what is offered to the masses in lieu of actual power. The result is violence that becomes almost casual, shorn of any political rationale and reflecting a reality in which human beings are just as disposable as their video game counterparts.

Events from recent years make it clear that the binary between fantasy and danger is a false one. Consider, for instance, the mass shooters who live-stream their rampages on Facebook or gaming platforms such as Twitch, a growing trend from Florida to New Zealand to Germany. Performative violence of this sort is no less real for being optimized for our new media ecosystem. If anything, performative violence gains its horrific quality because it treats human beings as means to an end — props that frame the protagonists’ moment of glory. The attack on the Capitol exists on a spectrum with these acts of violence, offering yet another instance of live action role play directed against real human bodies. The truly frightening thing about cosplaying in this regard is that it is part of a politics of delusion that is acted out in the real world. That many who participated in the attack are having trouble grasping the legal consequences that came along with their live-streamed insurrection testifies to this sense of confusion between material life and the revolutionaries they played on TV.

What does the growing prevalence of this mode of violence as spectacle — and the groups that embrace it — mean? In 1936, the German-Jewish critic Walter Benjamin observed that “fascism sees its salvation in giving these masses not their right, but instead a chance to express themselves.” That is to say, fascists used art in the service of politics to deflect people from pursuing the redistributive demands that historically came alongside mass political movements. Today, too, such performances furnish excitement and purpose for participants while leaving alone the underlying power structures that oppress them. Benjamin noted the rise of fascist aesthetics in contemporary film, visual arts, and ceremonies and other civic rituals; today, we encounter a much-reduced range of aesthetic expression. To the extent that the far right makes art, composes music or writes literature, it is so poor in quality that it can be read only as kitsch. What is left, and what is truly glorified within the emerging far-right imagination, is violence. Ours might be a hollowed-out fascism, a reality TV version of the 20th century’s premier political horror, but that does not make it any less dangerous. Kitsch can also kill.

For far-right leaders today, inciting violence against the nation’s “enemies” offers the fan base a pathway to political participation that preserves the anti-democratic character of the movement, as if to say: We do not need you to govern, only to harm. It is no wonder, then, that intimations of violence have become a common mode of personal expression among adherents of current far-right movements: Cue a thousand photos of extremists decked out in tactical gear, toting their professional-grade death tools and looking eager to reenact some bit of revolutionary drama. The insurrectionist wearing the “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt seemed ready to take up his guard duties against political prisoners but not to stop the certification of Biden’s victory. Violence has become the central act through which the far right understands political agency, which is why fantasies about harming the nation’s “enemies” — journalistsactivistsopposition politicians — abound within the right-wing imaginary.

Violence is not, in this sense, ancillary to far-right politics but central to preserving the vast inequalities that even its “moderate” supporters wish to maintain. Beyond the tax cuts and deregulation so favored by his plutocratic backers, President Trump’s signature accomplishments were notable for their gratuitous cruelty: the ban on travel from Muslim nations, family separation at the southern border, home invasions and deportations by Immigration and Customs Enforcement that served no material interest beyond offering his fan base reasons to cheer. These are not disjointed parts of the right-wing agenda, as Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson have recently argued, but rather co-dependent, which is one reason the growth of white nationalism has mirrored the uptick in economic inequality. Acts of violence, particularly against people of color, are the spoonful of sugar that helps the GOP’s economic platform — notoriously unpopular among its base — go down. Violence does the deflective work Benjamin identified with fascist aesthetics.

The events this month also underscored that “freedom” — that most signature of conservative values — has been refashioned to contain violence at its core: freedom to carry a weapon and use it at will, to infect others around you during a pandemic, to die of preventable disease rather than submit to a national health-care system. Moreover, the primacy of violence within the right’s political vision also helps explain why our authorized death dispensers — police officers and military personnel — have become demigods in certain circles. (That’s why it was so shocking to see the Trump mob engage Capitol Police officers in battle, violating the unmatched sanctity of blue lives.) The right fringe also likes to . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 January 2021 at 7:09 pm

The American Abyss: Fascism, Atrocity, and What Comes Next

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Timothy Snyder, Levin professor of history at Yale University and the author of histories of political atrocity including “Bloodlands” and “Black Earth,” as well as the book “On Tyranny,” on America’s turn toward authoritarianism, writes in the NY Times Magazine on the mechanisms and failures that brought the US political system to its current state of wreckage:

When Donald Trump stood before his followers on Jan. 6 and urged them to march on the United States Capitol, he was doing what he had always done. He never took electoral democracy seriously nor accepted the legitimacy of its American version.

Even when he won, in 2016, he insisted that the election was fraudulent — that millions of false votes were cast for his opponent. In 2020, in the knowledge that he was trailing Joseph R. Biden in the polls, he spent months claiming that the presidential election would be rigged and signaling that he would not accept the results if they did not favor him. He wrongly claimed on Election Day that he had won and then steadily hardened his rhetoric: With time, his victory became a historic landslide and the various conspiracies that denied it ever more sophisticated and implausible.

People believed him, which is not at all surprising. It takes a tremendous amount of work to educate citizens to resist the powerful pull of believing what they already believe, or what others around them believe, or what would make sense of their own previous choices. Plato noted a particular risk for tyrants: that they would be surrounded in the end by yes-men and enablers. Aristotle worried that, in a democracy, a wealthy and talented demagogue could all too easily master the minds of the populace. Aware of these risks and others, the framers of the Constitution instituted a system of checks and balances. The point was not simply to ensure that no one branch of government dominated the others but also to anchor in institutions different points of view.

In this sense, the responsibility for Trump’s push to overturn an election must be shared by a very large number of Republican members of Congress. Rather than contradict Trump from the beginning, they allowed his electoral fiction to flourish. They had different reasons for doing so. One group of Republicans is concerned above all with gaming the system to maintain power, taking full advantage of constitutional obscurities, gerrymandering and dark money to win elections with a minority of motivated voters. They have no interest in the collapse of the peculiar form of representation that allows their minority party disproportionate control of government. The most important among them, Mitch McConnell, indulged Trump’s lie while making no comment on its consequences.

Yet other Republicans saw the situation differently: They might actually break the system and have power without democracy. The split between these two groups, the gamers and the breakers, became sharply visible on Dec. 30, when Senator Josh Hawley announced that he would support Trump’s challenge by questioning the validity of the electoral votes on Jan. 6. Ted Cruz then promised his own support, joined by about 10 other senators. More than a hundred Republican representatives took the same position. For many, this seemed like nothing more than a show: challenges to states’ electoral votes would force delays and floor votes but would not affect the outcome.

Yet for Congress to traduce its basic functions had a price. An elected institution that opposes elections is inviting its own overthrow. Members of Congress who sustained the president’s lie, despite the available and unambiguous evidence, betrayed their constitutional mission. Making his fictions the basis of congressional action gave them flesh. Now Trump could demand that senators and congressmen bow to his will. He could place personal responsibility upon Mike Pence, in charge of the formal proceedings, to pervert them. And on Jan. 6, he directed his followers to exert pressure on these elected representatives, which they proceeded to do: storming the Capitol building, searching for people to punish, ransacking the place.

Of course this did make a kind of sense: If the election really had been stolen, as senators and congressmen were themselves suggesting, then how could Congress be allowed to move forward? For some Republicans, the invasion of the Capitol must have been a shock, or even a lesson. For the breakers, however, it may have been a taste of the future. Afterward, eight senators and more than 100 representatives voted for the lie that had forced them to flee their chambers.

Post-truth is pre-fascism, and Trump has been our post-truth president. When we give up on truth, we concede power to those with the wealth and charisma to create spectacle in its place. Without agreement about some basic facts, citizens cannot form the civil society that would allow them to defend themselves. If we lose the institutions that produce facts that are pertinent to us, then we tend to wallow in attractive abstractions and fictions. Truth defends itself particularly poorly when there is not very much of it around, and the era of Trump — like the era of Vladimir Putin in Russia — is one of the decline of local news. Social media is no substitute: It supercharges the mental habits by which we seek emotional stimulation and comfort, which means losing the distinction between what feels true and what actually is true.

Post-truth wears away the rule of law and invites a regime of myth. These last four years,  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more — it’s a long article — and at the link you can also listen to it (30 minutes at normal speed).

Written by LeisureGuy

16 January 2021 at 1:56 pm

Combat in the Capitol

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It was worse than it’s been portrayed. Rebecca Solnit on Facebook:

One of the things seldom remembered is that 9/11 in NYC could have been much worse. Nearly everyone in the Twin Towers below the plane impacts got out alive, the great majority of people there, before the buildings collapsed (and because there was an election that Tuesday morning, a lot of people were not at work at all, so the towers were much emptier than usual).

Likewise, 1/6 could have been much worse. It nearly was.

Reading the Washington Post‘s riveting, horrifying firsthand accounts (published Thursday night; posted on my page) from the police who were battling the insurgents is a reminder that thousands of would-be assassins with guns were engaged in hours of brutal, almost unhinged hand-to-hand combat to try to get at the elected officials. (One police account says that they confiscated a lot of guns and knew there were far more, and that he suspected the protestors were waiting for the police to shoot first, so, aside from the shot that took out the Navy vet, they didn’t.) That the mob did not manage to lay hands on any of our representatives, so far as we know, seems remarkable under the circumstances. There would have been beatings, probably rapes and murders, possibly torture and hostage-taking.

The first round of images of the goofballs lounging among the paintings and sculptures, taking selfies, putting feet up on a Pelosi staffer’s desk were misleading. Elsewhere, it was combat. A lot of police, ex-soldiers, militia members in the crowd were committing some very organized violence.
We were misled by the early photographs and media accounts, which didn’t sufficiently portray the sheer violence of that day. I think that some blame for what happened lies with some members of the Capitol police; much will probably turn out to lie with those officials elsewhere who failed to gather or act on the information that monumental violence was planned or possibly actively suppressed that information and the aid that should have been given to the Capitol force beforehand and during what it now feels legitimate to call a battle.

What I know for sure is that we know a lot more today than we did on 1/6, and we will continue to learn. About, among other things, a broad conspiracy to try to topple the government by attacking the legislative branch with lethal violence. (As I wrote in Lithub a few days ago, their devout faith in violence was misplaced; even had they succeeded in taking the building and killing some congresspeople and senators or taking hostages, they would not have convinced the nation and the world that 45 was the legitimate winner of the November election and entitled to stay in office.) I think we are seeing the first edges of a many-faceted conspiracy.

The more people recognize this, the more the alliance between these invaders and their supporters in right-wing media, among elected officials, and beyond will be questioned. This is the culmination of who this sector has become over the past four years, a disinhibited, intoxicated version of the worst of what the far right has long been. The supporters need to either assent to what happened or disown it; the long having it both ways needs to end. Or so it seems to me tonight.

See also: ‘We got to hold this door’: How battered D.C. police made a stand against the Capitol mob.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 January 2021 at 8:18 pm

Two good quotes from David Pell’s newsletter

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David Pell writes:

ET TWO, BRUTE

No, you’re not seeing double. No need to do a double take. The House of Reps is serving up impeachments, and Trump said, “Make mine a double.” The two-faced, two-timing, double-crossing, seditious recidivist, for whom treachery is second nature, is a repeat offender, setting a double standard by becoming the first president to suffer twin falls; getting impeached twice over, suffering double trouble and a second reprimand because he couldn’t accept coming in second place and instead turned America’s Capitol into a two-bit riot act. In other words, Trump finally grew a pair. Now we’re tired of all the twinning. Individual One just made number two. You dropped a deuce, Ace.

And also offers this observation:

Some GOP House members indicated to reporters that they would have voted for impeachment but they feared for their lives. Folks, this is the very definition of living in an autocracy: Fear of violence bends elected officials away from the people they represent, or the law, in favor of the autocrat’s will. It’s how the mafia runs. It’s how bullies rule the school yard. It’s not how America is supposed to work.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 January 2021 at 8:52 pm

Insurrection Timeline – First the Coup and Then the Cover-Up

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Steven Harper writes at Moyers on Democracy:

The Department of Defense’s January 8, 2021 press release purports to “memorialize the planning and execution timeline” of the deadly insurrection that it calls the “January 6, 2021 First Amendment Protests in Washington, DC.”*

The memo’s minute-by-minute account creates a false illusion of transparency. In truth, its most noteworthy aspects are the omission of Trump’s central role in the insurrection and the effort to shift blame away from Trump and his new Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller.

Who is Christopher Miller?

By November 9, every news organization declared that former Vice President Joe Biden had won the election. On that day, Trump fired Acting Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and replaced him with Miller, an Army retiree who worked for a defense contractor until Trump tapped him as his assistant in 2018. Miller’s promotion began a departmental regime change that embedded three fierce Trump loyalists as top Defense Department officials: Kash Patel (former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA)), retired army Gen. Anthony Tata (pro-Trump Fox News pundit) and Ezra Cohen-Watnick (former assistant to Trump’s first national security adviser, Mike Flynn).

At such a late date in Trump’s presidency, many asked why the shake-up at the Department of Defense? We may be learning the answer.

Prior to the Attack

The department’s January 8, 2021 memo ignores Trump’s central role in igniting and then encouraging the January 6 insurrection. In fact, the only reference to Trump appears in a January 3 entry, when Miller and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Milley meet with him and he concurs in activation of the DC National Guard “to support law enforcement.”

Other than that, Trump is conspicuously absent, along with the most important parts of the story. In the date and time entries that follow, only those in italics and preceded with “(DoD Memo)” summarize items from the Defense Department’s January 8 memorandum. The memo ignores every other fact set forth in this post.

Dec. 19, 2020: Trump tweets: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”

Jan. 3, 2021: Replying to a tweet from one of the rally organizers, Trump tweets: “I will be there. Historic day.”

Jan. 4: The National Park Service increases the crowd estimate on the January 6 rally permit to 30,000 — up from the original 5,000 in December.

January 6, 2021:

8:17 a.m.: Trump tweets: “States want to correct their votes, which they now know were based on irregularities and fraud, plus corrupt process never received legislative approval. All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN. Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!”

Noon: Trump begins to address the mob and continues speaking for more than 90 minutes.

  • “We will never give up. We will never concede. It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved.”
  • “We won this election, and we won it by a landslide. This was not a close election.”
  • “I hope Mike is going to do the right thing. I hope so. I hope so, because if Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election. All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify, and we become president, and you are the happiest people.”

1:00 p.m.: While Trump continues his rant to the mob, some members of Trump’s crowd have already reached the US Capitol Building where Congress assembles in joint session to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. An initial wave of protesters storms the outer barricade west of the Capitol Building. As the congressional proceedings begin, Pence reads a letter saying that he won’t intervene in Congress’s electoral count: “My oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority.”

1:10 p.m.: Trump ends his speech by urging his followers to march down Pennsylvania Avenue. “We’re going to the Capitol. We’re going to try and give them [Republicans] the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country…If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

The Attack

If the District of Columbia were a state, its governor alone could have deployed the National Guard to crush the riot. Instead, Trump and his Defense Department had that responsibility, and an unprecedented assault on a sacred institution of government succeeded, if only for a few hours.

(DoD Memo) 1:26 p.m.: The Capitol Police orders the evacuation of the Capitol complex.

1:30 p.m.: The crowd outside the building grows larger, eventually overtaking the Capitol Police and making its way up the Capitol steps. Suspicious packages — later confirmed to be pipe bombs — are found at Republican National Committee headquarters and Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington.

(DoD Memo) 1:34 p.m.: DC Mayor Muriel Bowser asks Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy — who reports to Miller — for more federal help to deal with the mob.

Bowser is told that the request must first come from the Capitol Police.

(DoD Memo) 1:49 p.m.: The Capitol Police chief asks the commanding general of the DC National Guard for immediate assistance.

2:15 p.m.: Trump’s mob breaches the Capitol building – breaking windows, climbing inside and opening doors for others to follow.

(DoD Memo) 2:22 p.m.: Army Secretary McCarthy discusses the situation at the Capitol with Mayor Bowser and her staff.

They are begging for additional National Guard assistance. Note the time. It’s been almost an hour since Bowser requested help.

2:24 p.m.: Trump tweets: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”

After erecting a gallows on the Capitol grounds, the mob shouts, “Hang Mike Pence.” Rioters create another noose from a camera cord seized during an attack on an onsite news team.

2:26 p.m.: Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund joins a conference call with several officials from the DC government, as well as officials from the Pentagon, including Lt. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, director of the Army Staff. Piatt later issues a statement denying the statements attributed to him.

“I am making an urgent, urgent immediate request for National Guard assistance,” Sund says. “I have got to get boots on the ground.”

The DC contingent is flabbergasted when Piatt says that he could not recommend that his boss, Army Secretary McCarthy, approve the request. “I don’t like the visual of the National Guard standing a police line with the Capitol in the background,” Piatt says. Again and again, Sund says that the situation is dire.

(DoD Memo) 2:30 p.m.: Miller, Army Secretary McCarthy and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff meet to discuss Mayor Bowser’s request.

(DoD Memo) 3:04 p.m.: Miller gives “verbal approval” to full mobilization of the DC National Guard (1,100 members).

It has now been more than 90 minutes since Mayor Bowser first asked Army Secretary McCarthy for assistance. It took an hour for Defense Department officials to meet and another half hour for them to decide to help. And Bowser still doesn’t know the status of her request.

(DoD Memo) 3:19 p.m.: Pelosi and Schumer call Army Secretary McCarthy, who says that Bowser’s request has now been approved.

(DoD Memo) 3:26 p.m.: Army Secretary McCarthy calls Bowser to tell her that her request for help has been approved.

The Defense Department’s notification of approval to Bowser came two hours after her request.

While Miller and his team were slow-walking Mayor Bowser’s request, she had sought National Guard assistance from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R). At about the same time, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called Northam directly for help and he agreed.

3:29 p.m.: Gov. Northam announces mobilization of Virginia’s National Guard. But there’s a hitch. Federal law requires Defense Department authorization before any state’s National Guard can cross the state border onto federal land in DC. That approval doesn’t come until almost two hours later.FBI report warned of ‘war’ at Capitol, contradicting claims there was no indication of looming violence

(DoD Memo) 3:47 p.m. Governor Hogan mobilizes his state’s National Guard and 200 state troopers.

The Defense Department “repeatedly denies” Hogan’s request to deploy the National Guard at the Capitol. As he awaits approval, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) calls Hogan from the undisclosed bunker to which he, Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have been evacuated. Hoyer pleads for assistance, saying that the Capitol Police is overwhelmed and there is no federal law enforcement presence.

4:17 p.m.: Trump tweets a video telling rioters, . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Also of interest: “FBI report warned of ‘war’ at Capitol, contradicting claims there was no indication of looming violence,” a report in the Washington Post. Republicans in general, and particularly those who supported the Trump administration prior to the uprising (that is, almost all Republicans), are frantically trying to hide or minimize their involvement and support of the insurrection, including making the ludicrous claim that those storming the Capitol were not Trump supports but Antifa members disguised as Trump supporters.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 January 2021 at 12:08 pm

Arnold Schwarzenegger points out similarities between Capitol Hill insurrection and Austria’s Kristallnacht

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Written by LeisureGuy

10 January 2021 at 11:27 am

Why Parler is doomed

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A very interesting Twitter thread by David Troy in a very interesting new app that presents Twitter threads in readable form. The thread begins:

THREAD: Now that @amazon @awscloud has announced they will no longer host @parler_app, many have speculated that they will just “find another host.”

Here is why that’s not so simple and what it will likely mean for the app’s future. First, let’s look at where things are… 

2/ Google and Apple have removed the app from their app stores, effectively terminating growth on mobile devices. People can still access the (not good) web UI until Amazon terminates them today. CEO Matze has said they may be down “up to a week” while they find new hosting. 
3/ Translated to English, that’s code for “we have no idea what’s going to happen next.” No US cloud provider (Microsoft, Google, IBM, Digital Ocean) is likely to touch this, as it could be seen as providing material support for sedition. No CEO or counsel wants to get near this. 
4/ They could potentially “roll their own” data center by buying servers and putting them in a co-location facility. But that’s a single point of failure, and many colo providers would be just as likely to decline their business. It would be hard and risky to pursue this. 
5/ Imagine, after they sweated like pigs to get this hardware all setup, if they get told their colo provider is booting them. That’s a lot of metal to then move somewhere else. Meanwhile, the user base is deteriorating because chaos and dying apps. They will go to other venues. 
6/ They also have . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

And also read his earlier thread about Parler and its intimate connections with Russia. That is a must-read.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 January 2021 at 11:00 am

The riot/insurrection that was planned in plain sight

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Logan Jaffee writes in a ProPublica newsletter:

Hi there,

My name is Logan Jaffe. I’m a reporter at ProPublica. To be frank, I am struggling to even type right now, as I am watching a nightmare unfold in the U.S. Capitol. It’s midday on Wednesday, Jan. 6. A door of the Senate chamber has been barricaded with heavy furniture. Elected officials have been evacuated. A PBS reporter is crouched behind something to keep her safe, still broadcasting, somehow. The halls of the Capitol have been overtaken by a group of people that CNN’s Jake Tapper just suggested we call terrorists. President-elect Joe Biden called this an insurrection. Many Americans may feel surprised by this violent attempted coup. I am not one of them.

For years, I’ve been following far-right and white nationalist movements, both online and in person. In January 2017, I stood outside of a gun store in rural Virginia as hundreds of neo-Confederates raised a gigantic Confederate battle flag in honor of Robert E. Lee’s birthday. Almost four years later, on the morning of the Capitol insurrection, the same group who organized the flag-raising tweeted: “Friends. We didn’t lose our Republic last night. We lost it in 1865. It’s just taken 155 years to fully reap the whirlwind #TheSouthWasRight.” Someone replied: “Amen to that. Was good to see the battle flag in the Capitol.”

While reporting in the sundown town of Anna, Illinois, in 2019, I had a lengthy conversation in the Walmart parking lot with a man who warned me a civil war was coming to this country. At the start of the pandemic in April 2020, I reported on how lockdowns were triggering discussions in some Illinois counties about seceding, or kicking Chicago out of the state. Of course, it is all still unlikely — Illinois secession and a national civil war — but the rhetoric is not meaningless because it is an expression of the violence that became a reality this Wednesday.

In the weeks leading up to the election certification on Wednesday, talk of violence at the nation’s Capitol — and state capitols, too — was not hard to find. It was out in the open, just as it has been for years. Sometimes, it is explicit. One commenter on MyMilitia.com wrote on Dec. 12: “If this does not change, then I advocate, Revolution and adherence to the rules of war. … I say, take the hill or die trying.”

It would be nearly impossible to quantify the rhetoric from President Donald Trump’s supporters on social media platforms that calls for uprising, to defend the Constitution, to defend America, to defend and defend and defend. Trump himself has repeatedly told his followers he will not back down. And though the people who dared to riot, pillage and trespass their way into the nation’s Capitol did not succeed at their goal of “stopping the steal” of an election that has not been stolen, they came far too close. What that means, perhaps, is that those whose job it is to safeguard the Capitol, the citadel of democracy, did not believe in the reality of the threat as much as insurrectionists believed in their own delusion.

To many Americans, what happened at the Capitol on Wednesday was a nightmare. Five people died. To some Americans, it was a dream come true.

In a story I wrote this week with my colleagues Lydia DePillis, Isaac Arnsdorf and David McSwane, we report on the widespread talk of violence on social media and the unpreparedness of Capitol Police to meet the moment. We’ll be reporting more on this in the coming weeks. If you have information or other thoughts you’d like to share with me, you can reply directly to this email. I hope to hear from you. Thanks for reading.

Until next week …

—Logan Jaffe, ProPublica

Written by LeisureGuy

9 January 2021 at 11:21 pm

Podcast: Bill Moyers and Heather Cox Richardson

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The podcast can be downloaded from this post on BillMoyers.com. The transcript begins:

ANNOUNCER: Welcome to Moyers on Democracy. President Trump urged his followers to come to Washington for a “big protest” on January 6th. He wanted their help in reversing the results of the election he lost. “Be there,” he said.“ (It) will be wild.”  And they came. By the thousands, they came, and sure enough, it was not only “wild,”  as the President had promised, it was worse. Much worse. The protesters became a mob, stormed the US Capitol, drove the vice president and members of the House and Senate out of their chambers, and turned a day meant for celebrating democracy into a riot that sought to overturn a free and fair election. Across the country and around the world people watched, horrified, dumbfounded and disbelieving, as insurrection incited by the president of the United States and his Republican enablers struck at the very centerpiece of American governance. Here’s Bill Moyers, to talk about that day with the historian Heather Cox Richardson.

BILL MOYERS: Good morning Heather, glad you could join me.

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: It’s always a pleasure.

BILL MOYERS: It’s the morning after what happened in Washington, the insurrection. Did you believe your eyes when you were watching those events unfold on the screen?

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: I believed them and I wept. And I am not exaggerating. Seeing that Confederate flag, which had never flown in the Capitol during the Civil War, and it had never flown in the Capitol in the 1870s, and it had never flown in the Capitol during the second rise of KKK in the 1920s, going through our people’s government house in 2021– the blow that that means for those of us who understand exactly what was at stake in the Confederacy. That image for me, of the flag being carried through the halls was, I think, my lowest moment as an American.

BILL MOYERS: Interesting because I kept seeing the flags all afternoon: the Confederate flag, American flags flying upside down. Flags with the name “Jesus” on them, “Jesus saves,” “Jesus 2020.” A big, burly protester carrying a flag on a baseball bat that seemed as big as his arms. He paused long enough just to give the camera and us a middle finger. Joe Biden keeps saying, this isn’t America. It’s not who we are, but it is America. This kind of character and this kind of conflict and this kind of meanness are a big part of our history. Is there any hope for Biden’s aspiration to unite us again?

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: These people have always been in our society. And they always will be in our society. What makes this moment different is that we have a president who is actively inciting them in order to destroy our democracy. We certainly have had presidents who incited these sorts of people before for one end or another. But at the end of the day, every president until now has believed in democracy. And this one does not. He wants to get rid of democracy and replace it with an oligarchy that puts him and his family at the top. The same sort of way that we have oligarchies in Russia now, for example. Biden cannot combat these people alone. This is a moment for Americans who care about our democracy and who care about returning to our fundamental principles. And finally, making them come to life to speak up, to push back, to insist on accountability and to recognize that we are, in fact, struggling for the survival of our country, not simply talking about, “Oh, I like this politician” or, “I like that politician.” And if we do that, will we win? Absolutely. But making people do that and getting people to understand how important that is is going to be a battle. And it’s one that, by the way, we’ve been in before, and lost. This is the same sort of battle we fought at the end of Reconstruction, when most Americans sort of went “Whatever.” And we ended up with a one-party state in the American South for generations. And that is exactly the sort of thing that they are trying to make happen across America itself.

BILL MOYERS: What do you think happens to those we saw on the screen yesterday, those who invaded the Capitol, the core of our congressional system? What do you think happens to them when they discover that Trump and the Republican Party have been lying to them? That the election wasn’t rigged, it wasn’t a hoax. What do they do?

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: A lot of them will never realize that. You know your psychological studies. A lot of what we used to call brainwashing can’t be undone and won’t be undone. And they will go to their graves believing that this was a stolen election. But some, and you could see them on their faces yesterday, some people sort of went, “Well, wait a minute. This was supposed to be the storm. We were supposed to be having a revolution. And it didn’t happen. We got into the Capitol building. We did our part, and there was nobody there to greet us and to help us take over.” And what’s interesting in a moment like that is there are two things to do: you can go deeper into your delusion, or you can turn on the people who took you there in a really powerful and passionate way. And this is one of the reasons this moment is so fraught is a lot of people might be waking up and going, “Wait a minute. They lied to us. They changed their minds last night and they made Biden president.” And you can see if you’re watching QAnon. They’re sort of saying, “Well, wait a minute. I’m sure Trump has an even deeper plan.” Which, of course, puts him in a bind because he can’t now say, “Oh, never mind. I didn’t mean this,” because then he’s going to lose their loyalty. So, we’re in this fraught moment. But I think people will either go ahead and continue to believe and this will a rump group that we are going to have to be dealing with for many, many years. Or some of them will become some of our most vocal opponents of people like Trump.

BILL MOYERS: Seventy million people are not really a rump group, are they? They constitute a sizable portion of the American population. You think they’ll drift away, those who are just seeing Trump as a sort of spokesman for their grievances and someone who could put the establishment on notice? Or are they in this for the long run?

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: I think it’s really important to distinguish between

Continue reading. Or go to the link and listen (or download the audio file).

Written by LeisureGuy

8 January 2021 at 1:07 pm

Trump Is Growing the GOP’s ‘Anti–Rule of Law’ Wing

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Eric Levitz writes in New York:

The American right has always been home to factions that demand “law and order,” while declaring themselves — and not the federal government — the arbiters of legality. The roots of this anarchic conservatism run deep into the foundation of the Republic. Andrew Jackson, who is hailed as a great democratizer by mainstream U.S. history, was a great champion of settlers who defied federal restrictions on their liberty to kill indigenous people and confiscate their lands. The (solid-red) South has, of course, always had a complicated relationship with the concept of federal sovereignty. And the Christian right, once it abandoned that whole “render unto Caesar” tripe, has insisted that God’s law comes before man’s (and the Constitution, as interpreted by the Christian right, is God’s law).

This tendency made itself felt during the Obama years through the armed standoff between right-wing militias and federal agents at Cliven Bundy’s ranch in Nevada. And it gained new institutional form through the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, a group of active law-enforcement officials who believe the U.S. Constitution gives local government primacy over the state and federal governments, at least on the subject of firearm regulations.

All this is to say: Donald Trump did not import this tendency into the Republican Party. But by using the bully pulpit to encourage far-right groups’ violations of COVID-19 public-health restrictions, to preach conspiracies about Democratic plots to foment “invasions” of the U.S. by criminal migrants, and to contest the legitimacy of his defeat in the 2020 election, the president has helped grow the Republican Party’s “anti–rule of law” wing considerably.

In recent weeks, Republican elected officials, activists, and law-enforcement agents have made the contingency of their support for lawful government more widely felt.

Only 26 of 249 Republican members of Congress were willing to acknowledge Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election, when asked by the Washington Post this week. Meanwhile, at the president’s urging, 64 Republicans in Pennsylvania’s General Assembly sent a letter to the state’s congressional delegation urging them to disenfranchise their own constituents — and subvert democratic government in the United States — by voting to “reject the state’s Electoral College votes for Mr. Biden.”

One Pennsylvania Republican offered some insight into her colleagues’ motives in an interview with the New York Times:

Kim Ward, the Republican majority leader of the Pennsylvania Senate, said the president had called her to declare there was fraud in the voting. But she said she had not been shown the letter to Congress, which was pulled together hastily, before its release.

Asked if she would have signed it, she indicated that the Republican base expected party leaders to back up Mr. Trump’s claims — or to face its wrath.

“If I would say to you, ‘I don’t want to do it,’” she said about signing the letter, “I’d get my house bombed tonight.”

Ward was almost certainly being hyperbolic. The primary threat constraining her colleagues’ behavior was that of primary challenges, not violence. But there’s reason to think that the latter threat is exerting some influence on elected officials’ behavior. After Michigan representative Cynthia A. Johnson criticized her Republican colleagues for inviting Rudy Giuliani to hold a hearing on spurious voter fraud allegations last week, Johnson found herself inundated with racist death threats.

Trump cannot claim full credit for the broader radicalization that many conservatives are undergoing across the United States. The traumas and tribulations of the COVID-19 pandemic seem to have been instrumental. For some paranoid, petty, small-government conservatives, the imposition of government lockdown orders was experienced as the confirmation of their darkest fears. In certain instances, these state orders really did threaten their livelihoods and personal property (while in others, it threatened their shallower “right” to enter public spaces without a mask in the middle of a public-health crisis).

In Politico, Ciara O’Rourke reports on an “Oath Keeper” named John Shirley who was elected constable of Hood County, Texas, in 2018. The Oath Keepers self-describe as a nonpartisan association of “tens of thousands of current and former military, police, and first responders who pledge to defend the Constitution and refuse to obey orders they consider unconstitutional.” In practice, they are nonpartisan only in the sense of having as much contempt for RINOs as they do for Democrats.

O’Rourke relays an instance earlier this year in which Shirley’s group curried favor with the locals:

The coronavirus pandemic had hobbled communities across the state and Governor Greg Abbott had ordered gyms, among other businesses, to shut down. Lift the Bar Fitness in Granbury followed that direction, at least for a while. By April, David Todd Hebert, who owns the gym with his wife, had grown impatient with what he considered an unconstitutional mandate from ”King Abbott.” They decided to reopen the gym even if it meant going to jail.

The gym announced on Facebook that members could finally come back even though Abbott’s executive order was still in effect. Someone commented that the police better “bring a lot of guns” if they were planning to stop them, Hood County News reported.

When Lift the Bar Fitness opened on April 28, about 10 Oath Keepers turned up “to make sure that we stayed open,” Hebert told me. They were friendly, he said, and they’d heard he was going to get arrested. They wanted to document any violations of his constitutional rights.

Notably, the local Oath Keepers’ commitment to protecting citizens’ civil liberties against law enforcement — even in cases where those citizens’ are running afoul of the law — is highly dependent on context:

Oath Keepers showed up to Black Lives Matter protests at the courthouse the following month. The events, held on June 6-7 in spite of some reported threats directed at one of the demonstration’s teenage organizers, were peaceful. But from their perch in the impressive limestone building that anchors the county’s charming downtown square, Shirley and two other constables asked Sheriff Roger Deeds whether the county had any riot shields, Deeds said.

It didn’t, perhaps because the county of about 60,000 people didn’t need them. But a couple weeks later the commissioners court accepted a donation of eight riot shields to be used by the sheriff’s office, Shirley and another constable, Chad Jordan.

Meanwhile, Shirley has spent his time in official office (1) calling for the execution of the Democratic mayor of Portland, (2) warning that if Democrats stole the election, there would be “open conflict,” and (3) after November 3, calling on patriots to rise up and fight against Bill Gates — the “master manipulator of the [election] heist” — and all his accomplices.

Shirley is not the only Republican public official who has expressed support for the nullification of public-health laws and presidential elections this year. In Michigan, Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf infamously defended a thwarted plot to kidnap Democratic governor Gretchen Whitmer on the grounds that “a lot of people are angry with the governor, and they want her arrested,” and so perhaps they were merely planning to make a citizen’s arrest of the head of the state. Leaf remained in his position as an agent of law enforcement following his endorsement of a coup against the governor. And this week, he filed a federal lawsuit alleging mass voter fraud in his state.

Meanwhile, in Boise, Idaho, on Tuesday night, public-health officials had to cancel a meeting after hundreds of anti-mask protestors assembled outside their buildings and personal homes. (This week, hospital officials in Idaho warned that  they may soon be forced to implement “crisis standards of care.”) Such protesters in Idaho and around the country enjoy the backing of a myriad of county sheriffs who have encouraged their constituents not to be “sheep” by following public-health laws. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 December 2020 at 3:09 pm

On Zoom, men don’t like feeling watched and judged — but women are used to it

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Treena Orchard and Shauna Burke, both Associate Professors in the School of Health Studies, Western University in London, Ont., write in The Conversation:

In Lewis Carroll’s Victorian classic Through the Looking-Glass, Alice steps through a mirror into a world that is a reflection of the one she already exists in. This fictional account of a familiar yet topsy-turvy reality resonates with our lived experiences during the pandemic, where we must navigate work, school and leisure through a screen.

Using our combined observations of hundreds of Zoom meetings and scholarly insights from the fields of anthropology and psychology, we explore these questions to consider the transformative impact of digital platforms on our work environments and identities.

As the legendary Aretha Franklin asks, “who’s zoomin’ who,” and why? And what does this tell us about our pandemic selves?

Men prefer custom backgrounds

Based on our experiences in the new virtual world, men appear to far outnumber women in their preference for using specialty Zoom backgrounds. Popular choices include dungeons, outer space, landscapes and branded University images, the latter of which is common among men in positions of significant power. They sometimes switch designs during meetings, which can be humorous and reflect individual creativity.

In practical terms, the backgrounds may also be used to disguise cluttered or untidy workspaces. The lack of research on Zoom backgrounds makes determining the reasons behind this behaviour challenging to ascertain, but studies about gender and workspace culture may offer some clues.

The idea of men customizing their backgrounds to assert themselves in new spaces aligns with insights from gaming literature. Journalist Gabriel Winslow-Yost argues that gaming can be very grounding among male players given the collective nature of the virtual landscape and the definitive roles each player has.

Unlike video games, Zoom meetings are not usually perceived as leisurely activities or an escape from the “real” world. However, it could be that tech-savvy men are drawn to or comforted in some way by the opportunity to curate their digital environments using unique Zoom backgrounds, or as Winslow-Yost points out with regard to the online gaming world: “… they let us spend a little time in a different room.”

Designs by men

Women have been players in the corporate world for decades, but the style and appearance of many work environments remains quite masculine. This is reflected in the predominance of neutral tones like steely grey, along with Modernist décor and room temperatures two to three degrees lower than what women prefer.

During the pandemic, the spatial distinctions between office and home are eroding because many of us now work in the places where we live. This transition may be especially challenging for men, who mostly prefer clear definitions between office and domestic spaces. In light of this, one suggestion is that men may use specialty Zoom backgrounds as a creative way to exact a sense of control over their new work environments that no longer reflect the masculine design they are used to.

On-screen appearances

We are also regularly observing and being observed by people on the other side of our looking-glass screens, which can increase our focus on the appearance of others and generate discomfort about how we look. There’s a reason cosmetic surgery for facial procedures has skyrocketed since the uptick in Zoom use or “Zoom boom.”

Women are regularly objectified and sexualized for male pleasure or gain, which researchers refer to as the male gaze. This could help explain why women are less likely than men to turn their videos on during Zoom calls. Their decisions to do so stem from appearance-related concerns and, for some, a desire to multi-task, says Portland-based psychologist and tech expert Doreen Dodgen-Magee.

When using Zoom, many of our male colleagues report feeling uncomfortable with being continuously observed. Given this, it is conceivable that some men employ custom backgrounds as protective camouflage to reduce their vulnerability in a glaringly objectified space.

Being visually assessed in such overt ways is not something most men are familiar with, especially in their professional lives. This is demonstrated in a recent study that found that although female workers often perceive themselves to be observed in certain working environments males do not.

Screen reflections

Like Alice’s looking-glass, Zoom is

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Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2020 at 6:09 pm

Inside the white supremacist global network

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David Ignatius reports in the Washington Post:

Violent white-supremacist groups have formed a connected global movement that rose before Donald Trump’s presidency and threatens to continue long after he leaves office.

These white-supremacist groups have used the Internet to recruit and train followers, much as Islamist extremists did a decade ago, argues a major new study by Jigsaw, a research arm of Google. The study, described here for the first time, is being published Tuesday by Jigsaw’s digital journal, the Current.

The study shatters the image that many analysts have of white supremacist attackers as “lone wolf” extremists. Jared Cohen, the chief executive of Jigsaw, argues that “this myth obscures the vast underlying infrastructure of white supremacist online communities around the world.”

These groups “move fluidly between mainstream and fringe platforms,” Cohen warns. They recruit followers on Facebook or YouTube, among other venues, and then direct them to protected “alt-tech” sites where they can privately share propaganda and boast about operations.

The challenge as Trump’s presidency ends is how to reduce the spread of this toxic movement and deradicalize its followers. The Jigsaw study offers some useful case studies in interviews conducted over the past two years with 36 former members of white-supremacist groups. But it’s clear there’s no silver bullet for deprogramming hate.

Former members told Jigsaw researchers that their escapes began with basic things — a life-changing event such as a birth or death in the family; disgust with violent acts perpetrated by other followers; or doubts raised by exposure to “minorities . . . they had vilified,” the study explains.

The movement is far larger and more violent than many people realize. Numbers collected by the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database depict a network that has been growing globally since 2010 and has expanded in tandem with Islamist extremism, its twin in using online media to spread hate.

Consider these comparisons: In 2009, white supremacists were responsible for six deaths in 19 incidents, while Islamist extremists were responsible for 14 deaths in 12 incidents. Those numbers kept climbing steadily through the decade. By 2019, white supremacists were linked to 165 deaths in 336 incidents, while Islamist extremists were tied to 193 deaths in 82 incidents.

In three “hot spots” for white supremacists — Germany, Britain and the United States — the number of incidents seemed to spike because of special factors: in Germany, the influx of Syrian migrants in 2015; in Britain, the angry debate over Brexit in 2016; in the United States, Trump’s presidency in 2017. But in each case, the problem pre-dated these events.

The Jigsaw researchers found that former group members had been attracted by the combination of solidarity and anonymity of the online community. One former member of several white-supremacist groups explained: “Every time I went online, it was like putting on a mask, one where you’re shielded from empathy, from consequences. . . . I’d say all sorts of horrible things. And then I’d get offline and hang my mask up and go back to my family.”

Another former member told Jigsaw researcher Beth Goldberg about her path from a curious 16-year-old browsing online forums to membership in the neo-Nazi Atomwaffen Division. As recruiters sensed her initial interest, the discussions moved to private channels where she was cultivated as a “prospect,” gaining status and “hidden knowledge” from the group. Eventually, before finally breaking away, she became an Atomwaffen recruiter herself.

The concealment tactics of these organizations were described by a former member of a group that helped organize the August 2017 Charlottesville rally. The group urged people to . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 December 2020 at 8:23 pm

Hitler quotes in uncovered police training material

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Too much — way too much — of what we learn about police in the US is bad. I’m willing to admit that there are bad apples, but (a) there seem to be bushels of them, and (b) one bad apple can spoil the whole barrel. There is a systemic problem that is not being addressed.

See also: “White supremacists and militias have infiltrated police across US” in the Guardian and “Police Rethink Policies as Cities Pay Millions to Settle Misconduct Claims” in the Wall Street Journal. (“Millions” is a gross understatement. As the subtitle notes, “Municipalities with 20 largest police departments paid over $2 billion since 2015 for alleged wrongdoings and civil rights violations.”) Note that these payouts normally come from the general fund, not the police department budget, so police departments have no financial incentive to change their practices. See this ABC news article.

Celine Castronuovo reports in The Hill:

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) on Friday reacted to reports of a previously removed state police training slideshow that appeared to quote Adolf Hitler three times and urged officers to be “ruthless.”

According to the Louisville Courier Journal, Beshear said in an emailed statement that the inclusion of the quotes was “absolutely unacceptable.”

“It is further unacceptable that I just learned about this through social media,” the governor added. “We will collect all the facts and take immediate corrective action.”

Student journalists at Louisville’s duPont Manual High School first reported on the slideshow Friday.

The high school’s newspaper, the Manual Redeye, later added a statement it received from Morgan Hall, the communications director for the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, saying that the slideshow was removed in 2013 and “is not currently a part of any training materials.”

“It is unacceptable that this material was ever included in the training of law enforcement,” Hall added.

The Manual Redeye obtained the slideshow through an open records request by local attorney David Ward during the discovery phase of a lawsuit.

Ward requested Kentucky State Police (KSP) materials used to train a detective who shot and killed a man in Harlan County in May 2018.

According to the student news outlet, one slide, titled “Violence of Action,” instructed officers to be “ruthless killer[s],” to have a “a mindset void of emotion” and to “meet violence with greater violence.”

The slide also reportedly included a line from Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” — “The very first essential for success is a perpetually constant and regular employment of violence” — one of three from the genocidal German leader included in the presentation.

KSP spokesperson Lt. Joshua Lawson wrote in an initial emailed statement to the Manual Redeye that he was not sure how many times the presentation had been used by the police department but added, “The quotes are used for their content and relevance to the topic addressed in the presentation.”

“The presentation touches on several aspects of service, selflessness, and moral guidance,” Lawson continued. “All of these topics go to the fundamentals of law enforcement such as treating everyone equally, service to the public, and being guided by the law.”

In a separate email, the spokesperson said that the presentation was seven years old and appeared to have been made by a police academy instructor.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 October 2020 at 6:55 pm

‘Guns are a way to exercise power’: how the idea of overthrowing the government became mainstream

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Lois Beckett writes in the Guardian:

osh Horwitz has been an American gun control activist for nearly 30 years. In 2009, he co-wrote a book warning that the idea of armed revolt against the government was at the center of the US gun rights movement.

Now, after a year that has seen heavily armed men show up at state capitols in VirginiaMichiganIdaho and elsewhere to confront Democratic lawmakers over gun control and coronavirus restrictions, more Americans are taking gun owners’ rhetoric about “tyrants” seriously. Some of the same armed protesters who showed up at Michigan’s state house and at a pro-gun rally this summer were charged last week with conspiring to kidnap Michigan’s governor and put her on trial for tyranny.

Other members of the “boogaloo” movement have allegedly murdered law enforcement officers in California and plotted acts of violence across the country in hopes of sparking a civil war.

Horowitz spoke to the Guardian about how mainstream the idea of insurrection has become in American politics, and why lawmakers have failed to challenge it for decades.

The conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

You argue in your book that the idea of violent insurrection against the American government is at the heart of American gun culture. What do you mean by that?

There’s a belief among some American gun owners that the second amendment is highly individualized and was placed in the constitution as an individual right to fight government tyranny. Therefore, each individual has the right to own whatever and however many weapons they want, free from any government interference. A licensing law or a universal background check law would mean the government knows who’s got a gun. If you believe there’s an individual right to insurrection, you can’t have any gun laws.

The drive to purchase semi-automatic assault weapons, like AR-15s, those weapons are often not purchased for self-defense, but for fear of government tyranny.

When the NRA says, “Vote Freedom First”, it’s not “Vote self-defense first”. They mean you get to decide when the government becomes tyrannical. The problem is that one person’s tyranny is another’s universal healthcare bill.

Is this concept of “insurrection” as the reason Americans should have unrestricted gun rights a very fringe idea?

It’s not every gun owner. But this movement is way larger than people think. And guns are now seen by a large portion of that community as a tool for political dissent.

When National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre says things like, “The guys with the guns make the rules”, or politicians and elected officials say, “We will rely on second amendment remedies”, what they mean is that people with guns will, in fact, set the political agenda and settle political disputes. That is a profoundly undemocratic idea. As Abe Lincoln famously said, “Any appeal from the ballot box to the bullet box must fail.” We are a country based on the rule of law. Guns don’t make you a super citizen with the ability to make special rules or have special political influence because you happen to be armed.

Where does this “insurrectionary idea” come from? When did it take hold?

The idea that individuals have the right to fight against tyranny is as old as the republic. But you can trace the modern incarnation of this principle to the early 1990s, and the rise of the militia movement during Bill Clinton’s presidency, when national gun violence prevention laws, including the assault weapons ban and background checks, were instituted. There’s a path from Ruby Ridge and Waco [deadly standoffs between citizens and federal agents, both involving illegal gun charges] to the Oklahoma City bombing. The Michigan militia is where Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, got this start. He was making his living at gun shows. He bought fully into the gun rights agenda, and he ended up killing a lot of kids. I started to pick up the resurgence of this idea in the mid-2000s, at the end of Bush’s presidency and the beginning of Obama’s presidency.

How does racism play into this idea of “insurrection” and its place in US politics?

There is a big racial element to this. White men, especially, are feeling that the political reins of power are pulling away from them, and their grip on power is falling away. Guns are a way to exercise power, let’s face it. Power over policy. Power over people.

You first published Guns, Democracy and the Insurrectionist Idea in 2009. What kind of response did it get?

People didn’t react the way that I hoped, by saying: this is going to be a big deal unless we move forcefully to oppose it. Instead, a lot of elected officials, including a lot of Democratic elected officials, acquiesced to the idea of an insurrectionary second amendment. People running for president in 2004 and 2008 would use lines like, “The second amendment isn’t for hunting. It has to do with protecting ourselves, our homes, our families and our country from tyranny.” Nobody followed up with: “What do you mean? You think it’s OK to shoot politicians?”

This year, we saw the Michigan legislature taken over, the Idaho legislature taken over, and it’s like – there’s no opprobrium. There’s a sort of, “boys will be boys” response.

Why has politicians’ response to rhetoric about violent revolt been so muted?

I think there’s the idea that if this really happened, the US army would just mow these people down. “Oh, it’d be suicide if they did that.” But the US military should not be deployed in civilian places to begin with. What are we going to do, have tanks on our own soil? We’re not going to do that. The other thing is that this movement is really well armed. There’s a lot of firepower in civilian hands: .50 caliber sniper rifles, AR-15s, AK-47s.

If they really did it, it would be very, very complicated.

How significant are the numbers of US military members and police who personally believe in this insurrectionist idea themselves? This year, US military veterans and active duty service members have been charged in a number of violent plots, including some that were allegedly designed to spark a civil war. . . .

Continue reading. There’s more and it’s important.

Later in the interview:

What do you think should be done now in response to all of this public conversation about insurrection?

Number one: there needs to be a clear public response, that people who exercise this “right” are not patriots, but traitors.

The second piece is . . .

Written by LeisureGuy

18 October 2020 at 5:49 pm

‘Machines set loose to slaughter’: the dangerous rise of military AI

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Anyone who’s discovered that “autocorrect” often means “autoerror” and who has seen the Terminator movies should be at least mildly uncomfortable about releasing into the wild autonomous machines programmed to kill humans (and “mildly uncomfortable” is much better than being on the receiving end of a bug in the latest release of such a machine’s OS).

Highly recommend science-fiction novel: Kill Decision, by Daniel Suarez.

Frank Pasquale writes in the Guardian:

The video is stark. Two menacing men stand next to a white van in a field, holding remote controls. They open the van’s back doors, and the whining sound of quadcopter drones crescendos. They flip a switch, and the drones swarm out like bats from a cave. In a few seconds, we cut to a college classroom. The killer robots flood in through windows and vents. The students scream in terror, trapped inside, as the drones attack with deadly force. The lesson that the film, Slaughterbots, is trying to impart is clear: tiny killer robots are either here or a small technological advance away. Terrorists could easily deploy them. And existing defences are weak or nonexistent.

Some military experts argued that Slaughterbots – which was made by the Future of Life Institute, an organisation researching existential threats to humanity – sensationalised a serious problem, stoking fear where calm reflection was required. But when it comes to the future of war, the line between science fiction and industrial fact is often blurry. The US air force has predicted a future in which “Swat teams will send mechanical insects equipped with video cameras to creep inside a building during a hostage standoff”. One “microsystems collaborative” has already released Octoroach, an “extremely small robot with a camera and radio transmitter that can cover up to 100 metres on the ground”. It is only one of many “biomimetic”, or nature-imitating, weapons that are on the horizon.

Who knows how many other noxious creatures are now models for avant garde military theorists. A recent novel by PW Singer and August Cole, set in a near future in which the US is at war with China and Russia, presented a kaleidoscopic vision of autonomous drones, lasers and hijacked satellites. The book cannot be written off as a techno-military fantasy: it includes hundreds of footnotes documenting the development of each piece of hardware and software it describes.

Advances in the modelling of robotic killing machines are no less disturbing. A Russian science fiction story from the 60s, Crabs on the Island, described a kind of Hunger Games for AIs, in which robots would battle one another for resources. Losers would be scrapped and winners would spawn, until some evolved to be the best killing machines. When a leading computer scientist mentioned a similar scenario to the US’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), calling it a “robot Jurassic Park”, a leader there called it “feasible”. It doesn’t take much reflection to realise that such an experiment has the potential to go wildly out of control. Expense is the chief impediment to a great power experimenting with such potentially destructive machines. Software modelling may eliminate even that barrier, allowing virtual battle-tested simulations to inspire future military investments.

In the past, nation states have come together to prohibit particularly gruesome or terrifying new weapons. By the mid-20th century, international conventions banned biological and chemical weapons. The community of nations has forbidden the use of blinding-laser technology, too. A robust network of NGOs has successfully urged the UN to convene member states to agree to a similar ban on killer robots and other weapons that can act on their own, without direct human control, to destroy a target (also known as lethal autonomous weapon systems, or Laws). And while there has been debate about the definition of such technology, we can all imagine some particularly terrifying kinds of weapons that all states should agree never to make or deploy. A drone that gradually heated enemy soldiers to death would violate international conventions against torture; sonic weapons designed to wreck an enemy’s hearing or balance should merit similar treatment. A country that designed and used such weapons should be exiled from the international community.

In the abstract, we can probably agree that ostracism – and more severe punishment – is also merited for the designers and users of killer robots. The very idea of a machine set loose to slaughter is chilling. And yet some of the world’s largest militaries seem to be creeping toward developing such weapons, by pursuing a logic of deterrence: they fear being crushed by rivals’ AI if they can’t unleash an equally potent force. The key to solving such an intractable arms race may lie less in global treaties than in a cautionary rethinking of what martial AI may be used for. As “war comes home”, deployment of military-grade force within countries such as the US and China is a stark warning to their citizens: whatever technologies of control and destruction you allow your government to buy for use abroad now may well be used against you in the future.


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A
re killer robots as horrific as biological weapons? Not necessarily, argue some establishment military theorists and computer scientists. According to Michael Schmitt of the US Naval War College, military robots could police the skies to ensure that a slaughter like Saddam Hussein’s killing of Kurds and Marsh Arabs could not happen again. Ronald Arkin of the Georgia Institute of Technology believes that autonomous weapon systems may “reduce man’s inhumanity to man through technology”, since a robot will not be subject to all-too-human fits of anger, sadism or cruelty. He has proposed taking humans out of the loop of decisions about targeting, while coding ethical constraints into robots. Arkin has also developed target classification to protect sites such as hospitals and schools.

In theory, a preference for controlled machine violence rather than unpredictable human violence might seem reasonable. Massacres that take place during war often seem to be rooted in irrational emotion. Yet we often reserve our deepest condemnation not for violence done in the heat of passion, but for the premeditated murderer who coolly planned his attack. The history of warfare offers many examples of more carefully planned massacres. And surely any robotic weapons system is likely to be designed with some kind of override feature, which would be controlled by human operators, subject to all the normal human passions and irrationality.

Any attempt to code law and ethics into killer robots raises enormous practical difficulties. Computer science professor Noel Sharkey has argued that it is impossible to programme a robot warrior with reactions to the infinite array of situations that could arise in the heat of conflict. Like an autonomous car rendered helpless by snow interfering with its sensors, an autonomous weapon system in the fog of war is dangerous.

Most soldiers would testify that the everyday experience of war is long stretches of boredom punctuated by sudden, terrifying spells of disorder. Standardising accounts of such incidents, in order to guide robotic weapons, might be impossible. Machine learning has worked best where  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more. It’s a long read.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 October 2020 at 2:55 pm

“A Car Crash Between Nicholas Sparks and ‘Mein Kampf’”

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Perhaps revealing a certain disengagement with current Hot Topics and Big Deals, my first thought was that the tattoo stood for “Peanut Butter” — he likes it that much?! If I were the waiter and a group of them came into the diner, my impulse (perhaps unwise) would be to say, “Let me guess: PB&J for everyone, right?”

The article by Maham Hasan in Vanity Fair is worth reading. It begins:

Talia Lavin, a self-professed agoraphobe who collects swords, spent about a year embedded deep in the online world of white supremacy. She was baffled by the fervor with which far-right trolls have targeted her over the past few years. Who or what merits this kind of hate? In Lavin’s case, being a proud Jewish “loudmouth” on Twitter and writing about far-right activities in The New Yorker, the New Republic, the Washington Post, and Huff Post was enough. “To be publicly Jewish and female, and engaged in antifascist rhetoric—even in the form of caustic tweets—rendered me a vivid character in the imagination of extremists,” she writes in her book, Culture Warlords: My Journey Into the Dark Web of White Supremacy, out October 13. 

Her own tipping point—the reason she chose to immerse herself in the world of her tormentors—was Charlottesville. The chants of “Jews will not replace us” shook her out of her previous “quiescence,” she says. Instead of turning away, she felt compelled to investigate how deep the rot went. The answer: “None of this was new, none of this started with Trump, none of this will end with him,” she says.

Previously a fact-checker at The New Yorker, Lavin maps in Culture Warlords a blueprint of all the online places where white supremacists, white nationalists, Christian extremists, and incels thrive and multiply. She researches and carefully formulates identities vivid enough to thrill any white extremist. And then she infiltrates. She’s Ashlynn, an Aryan princess wielding guns and deer blood who asks for love letters from her would-be Nazi suitors on the dating website WhiteDate.net. “The results were like a car crash between Nicholas Sparks and Mein Kampf,” she writes. She’s also Tom, a short, depressed incel angry at feminist bitches, his cystic acne and weak wrists showcased on Incels.co, where membership requires listing your reasons for being an incel. In an American and European chat room hell-bent on a race war (Vorherrschaft Division), she’s a seductive Nazi darling coaxing information out of a Ukrainian Nazi (screen name: Der Stürmer)—a great admirer of Hitler and the Christchurch mosque shooter Brenton Tarrant.

Was it worth it? “My mother’s parents were . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 October 2020 at 7:12 pm

A NY Times column that casts strong doubt on a NY Times report (and NY Times reporter)

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Ben Smith reports in the NY Times about the NY Times — and critically. He writes:

Derek Henry Flood wasn’t looking for work in March of 2018, when he sent a direct message to a New York Times reporter he admired, Rukmini Callimachi, to congratulate her on the announcement of her big new podcast about the terror group known as the Islamic State.

By that time, major American news outlets had mostly stopped hiring freelancers like Mr. Flood in Syria, scared off by a wave of kidnappings and murders.

But when Mr. Flood mentioned that he was in the northern city of Manbij, Ms. Callimachi wrote back urgently, and quickly hired him for a curious assignment. She sent him to the local market to ask about a Canadian Islamic State fighter called Abu Huzayfah.

The assignment, Mr. Flood recalled thinking, was both hopeless and quite strange in its specificity, since the extremist group had been forced out of Manbij two years earlier. But he was getting $250 a day, and so he gamely roamed the bazaar, reporting on all he saw and heard. Ms. Callimachi was singularly focused. “She only wanted things that very narrowly supported this kid in Canada’s wild stories,” he told me in a phone interview.

Mr. Flood didn’t know it at the time, but he was part of a frantic effort at The New York Times to salvage the high-profile project the paper had just announced. Days earlier, producers had sent draft scripts of the series, called Caliphate, to the international editor, Michael Slackman, for his input. But Mr. Slackman instead called the podcast team into the office of another top Times editor, Matt Purdy, a deputy managing editor who often signs off on investigative projects. The editors warned that the whole story seemed to depend on the credibility of a single character, the Canadian, whose vivid stories of executing men while warm blood “sprayed everywhere” were as lurid as they were uncorroborated. (This scene and others were described to me in interviews with more than two dozen people at The Times, many of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive internal politics.)

The Times was looking for one thing: evidence that the Canadian’s story was true. In Manbij, Mr. Flood wandered the marketplace until a gold merchant warned him that his questions were attracting dangerous attention, prompting him to quickly board a bus out of town. Across the Middle East, other Times reporters were also asked to find confirmation of the source’s ties to ISIS, and communicated in WhatsApp channels with names like “Brilliant Seekers” and “New emir search.” But instead of finding Abu Huzayfah’s emir, they found that ISIS defectors had never heard of him.

In New York, Malachy Browne, a senior producer of visual investigations at The Times, managed to confirm that an image from Abu Huzayfah’s phone had been taken in Syria — but not that he had traveled there.

Still more Times reporters in Washington tried to find confirmation. And one of them, Eric Schmitt, pulled a thread that . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more. Bottom line: the NY Times messed up big time, and a reporter there should put her CV in order.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 October 2020 at 12:43 pm

Operation Condor: the cold war conspiracy that terrorised South America

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The US has much to answer for if it ever truly faces its transgressions (e.g., torturing suspects, sometimes to death, under George W. Bush as an official and systematic program — and then deliberately destroying the video evidence). Giles Tremlett describes another example in the Guardian:

During the 1970s and 80s, eight US-backed military dictatorships jointly plotted the cross-border kidnap, torture, rape and murder of hundreds of their political opponents. Now some of the perpetrators are finally facing justice.

The last time Anatole Larrabeiti saw his parents, he was four years old. It was 26 September 1976, the day after his birthday. He remembers the shootout, the bright flashes of gunfire and the sight of his father lying on the ground, mortally wounded, outside their home in a suburb of Buenos Aires, Argentina, with his mother lying beside him. Then Larrabeiti remembers being taken away by armed police, along with his 18-month-old sister, Victoria Eva.

The two children became prisoners. At first, they were held in a grimy car repair garage that had been turned into a clandestine torture centre. That was in another part of Buenos Aires, the city that their parents had moved to in June 1973, joining thousands of leftwing militants and former guerrillas fleeing a military coup in their native Uruguay. The following month, in October 1976, Anatole and Victoria Eva were taken to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, and held at the military intelligence headquarters. A few days before Christmas, they were flown to a third country, Chile, in a small aircraft that climbed high above the Andes. Larrabeiti remembers looking down on snowy peaks from the plane.

Young children do not usually make epic journeys through three countries in as many months without parents or relatives. The closest thing they had to family was a jailer known as Aunt Mónica. It was probably Aunt Mónica who abandoned them in a large square, the Plaza O’Higgins, in the Chilean port city of Valparaíso, on 22 December 1976. Witnesses recall two young, well-dressed children stepping out of a black car with tinted windows. Larrabeiti wandered around the square, hand-in-hand with his sister, until the owner of a merry-go-round ride spotted them. He invited them to sit on the ride, expecting some panicked parents to appear, looking for their lost children. But nobody came, so he called the local police.

No one could understand how the two children, whose accents marked them as foreign, had got here. It was as if they had dropped from the sky. Anatole was too young to make sense of what had happened. How does a four-year-old who finds himself in Chile explain that he does not know where he is, that he lives in Argentina, but is really Uruguayan? All he knew was that he was in a strange place, where people spoke his language in a different way.

The next day, the children were taken to an orphanage, and from there they were sent on to separate foster homes. After a few months, they had a stroke of luck. A dental surgeon and his wife wanted to adopt, and when the magistrate in charge of the children asked the surgeon which sibling he wanted, he said both. “He said that we had to come together, because we were brother and sister,” Larrabeiti told me when we met earlier this year in Chile’s capital, Santiago.

Today, he is a trim, smartly suited 47-year-old public prosecutor with hazel eyes and a shaven head. “I have decided to live without hate,” he said. “But I want people to know.”

What Larrabeiti wants people to know is that his family were victims of one of the 20th century’s most sinister international state terror networks. It was called Operation Condor, after the broad-winged vulture that soars above the Andes, and it joined eight South American military dictatorships – Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil, Peru and Ecuador – into a single network that covered four-fifths of the continent.

It has taken decades to fully expose this system, which enabled governments to send death squads on to each other’s territory to kidnap, murder and torture enemies – real or suspected – among their emigrant and exile communities. Condor effectively integrated and expanded the state terror unleashed across South America during the cold war, after successive rightwing military coups, often encouraged by the US, erased democracy across the continent. Condor was the most complex and sophisticated element of a broad phenomenon in which tens of thousands of people across South America were murdered or disappeared by military governments in the 1970s and 80s.

Most Condor victims disappeared for ever. Hundreds were secretly disposed of – some of them tossed into the sea from planes or helicopters after being tied up, shackled to concrete blocks or drugged so that they could barely move. Larrabeiti’s mother, Victoria, who was last seen in an Argentinian torture centre in 1976, is one of them. His father, Mario, who was a leftwing militant, probably died in the shootout when they were snatched by the police. Enough victims have survived, however, to tell stories that, when matched against a growing volume of declassified documents, amount to a single, ghastly tale.

In the past two decades, Larrabeiti’s story has been told and retold in half a dozen courts and tribunals around the world. In the absence of a fully formed global criminal justice system, the perpetrators of Condor are being taken to court through a piecemeal process. “The trouble with borders is that it is easier to cross them to kill someone than it is to pursue a crime,” says Carlos Castresana, a prosecutor who has pursued Condor cases and the dictators behind them in Spain. Those seeking justice have had to rely on a judicial spider’s web of national laws, international treaties and rulings by human rights tribunals. The individuals they pursue are often decrepit and unrepentant old men, but a tenacious network of survivors, lawyers, investigators and academics, rather like the postwar Nazi-hunters, has taken up the challenge of ensuring that such international state terror does not go untried.

The process is painfully slow. The first major criminal investigation focusing on Condor – with victims and defendants from seven countries – began in Rome more than 20 years ago. It still has not ended. On a sweltering day in July 2019, a judge in the Rome case handed life sentences to a former president of Peru, a Uruguayan foreign minister, a Chilean military intelligence chief and 21 others for their role in a coordinated campaign of extermination and torture. The defendants are appealing, and a final verdict is due within a year.

Much of what we now know about Condor has been unearthed or pieced together in Rome, Buenos Aires and in dozens of court cases – large and small – in other countries. Further evidence comes from US intelligence papers dealing with Argentina that were declassified on the orders of Barack Obama. In 2019, the US completed its handover of 47,000 pages to Argentina. These documents show how much the US and European governments knew about what was happening across South America, and how little they cared.


When he was seven, Anatole Larrabeiti discovered his true identity, thanks to his tenacious paternal grandmother, Angélica, who tracked the siblings down. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more. America’s intense love of and admiration for military dictatorships is puzzling, given the dissonance with America’s own ideals. Is it like those infatuations that good girls have for bad boys? I dunno.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 September 2020 at 10:38 am

White supremacists and militias have infiltrated police across US, report says

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The US is undergoing a hostile takeover. Sam Levin reports in the Guardian:

White supremacist groups have infiltrated US law enforcement agencies in every region of the country over the last two decades, according to a new report about the ties between police and far-right vigilante groups.

In a timely new analysis, Michael German, a former FBI special agent who has written extensively on the ways that US law enforcement have failed to respond to far-right domestic terror threats, concludes that US law enforcement officials have been tied to racist militant activities in more than a dozen states since 2000, and hundreds of police officers have been caught posting racist and bigoted social media content.

The report notes that over the years, police links to militias and white supremacist groups have been uncovered in states including Alabama, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.

Police in Sacramento, California, in 2018 worked with neo-Nazis to pursue charges against anti-racist activists, including some who had been stabbed, according to records.

And just this summer, German writes, an Orange county sheriff’s deputy and a Chicago policeman were caught wearing far-right militia logos; an Olympia, Washington, officer was photographed posing with a militia group; and Philadelphia police officers were filmed standing by while armed mobs attacked protesters and journalists.

The exact scale of ties between law enforcement and militias is hard to determine, German told the Guardian. “Nobody is collecting the data and nobody is actively looking for these law enforcement officers,” he said.

Officers’ racist activities are often known within their departments and generally result in punishment or termination following public scandals, the report notes. Few police agencies have explicit policies against affiliating with white supremacist groups. If police officers are disciplined, the measures often lead to protracted litigation.

Concerns about alleged relations between far-right groups and law enforcement in the US have intensified since the start of the protest movement sparked by the police killing of George Floyd. Police in states including California, Oregon, Illinois and Washington are now facing investigations for their alleged affinity to far-right groups opposing Black Lives Matter, according to the report.

This week, police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, faced intense scrutiny over their response to armed white men and militia groups gathered in the city amid demonstrations by Black Lives Matter activists and others over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black father of three who was left paralyzed after being shot in the back. On Wednesday, Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old who appeared to consider himself a militia member and had posted “blue lives matter” content, was arrested on suspicion of murder after the fatal shooting of two protesters.

Activists in Kenosha say police there have responded aggressively and violently to Black Lives Matter demonstrators, while doing little to stop armed white vigilantes. Supporting their claims is at least one video taken before the shooting that showed police tossing bottled water to what appeared to be armed civilians, including one who appeared to be the shooter, the AP noted: “We appreciate you being here,” an officer said on loudspeaker.

Police also reportedly let the gunman walk past them with a rifle as the crowd yelled for him to be arrested because he had shot people, according to witnesses and video reviewed by the news agency.

The Kenosha sheriff, David Beth, has said the incident was chaotic and stressful.

German told the Guardian on Wednesday: “Far-right militants are allowed to engage in violence and walk away while protesters are met with violent police actions.” This “negligent response”, he added, empowers violent groups in dangerous and potentially lethal ways: “The most violent elements within these far-right militant groups believe that their conduct is sanctioned by the government. And therefore they’re much more willing to come out and engage in acts of violence against protesters.”

There is growing awareness in some parts of the government about the intensifying threat of white supremacy. The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have directly identified white supremacists as the most lethal domestic terrorist threat in the country. According to German’s report, the FBI’s own internal documents have directly warned that the militia groups the agency is investigating often have “active links” to law enforcement.

And yet US agencies lack a national strategy to identify white supremacist police and root out this problem, German warned. Meanwhile, popular police reform efforts to address “implicit bias” have done nothing to confront explicit racism.

The FBI did not . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 August 2020 at 6:55 am

What Happens When Ex-Navy SEALS Go Full QAnon?

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One recalls Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing. Kelly Weill reports in the Daily Beast:

A man filmed leaving the area of an attempted pipe bomb attack on protesters in Portland, Oregon, was a former Navy SEAL who writes conspiracy theory-heavy social media posts decrying the left, Portland activists and news media recently reported.

But the man is just one of an eclectic mix of former SEALs apparently taken in by conspiracy theories online or citing those theories in violent writings. If acted on by highly trained ex-military elite, those paranoias have deadly potential.

Witnesses in Portland say two men threw three homemade explosives at protesters early on the morning of Aug. 8. Although no one was harmed and the men do not appear to have been filmed, citizen journalist Scott Keeler pursued a man spotted in the area and filmed his face. Activists and Oregon Public Broadcasting identified the man as Louis Garrick Fernbaugh, a former SEAL and CIA contractor. Fernbaugh, 52, has been named by police as a person of interest, but not charged with a crime.

Online, Fernbaugh has an extensive history of writing about conspiracy theories, particularly where they implicated the left. In this respect, he is part of a broader pattern of ex-SEALs, many of them with large digital followings, espousing conspiratorial ideas. They’re armed, suspicious, and in some cases, write in detail about potential plans to kill people they view as evildoers.

In particular, some ex-SEALs are promoting belief in QAnon or related theories that falsely accuse many of President Donald Trump’s opponents of being involved in Satanic pedophilia and cannibalism.

Marc-André Argentino, an associate fellow at the Global Network on Extremism & Technology, who monitors the QAnon conspiracy theory, said that theory—which has become one of the foremost in U.S. politics—has inspired an uptick in criminal acts by believers. (The Navy did not return a request for comment.)

“The violence we’ve seen has been by people without acumen and physical training,” Argentino told The Daily Beast. “Where it could get scary is with people who do have training.”

SEALs like Fernbaugh, who could not be reached for comment for this story, have extensive military training, and might be better equipped than the average person to build an explosive device or take up weapons. A grizzled ex-special operative with a graying beard, Fernbaugh has spent years dabbling in false conspiracy theories, some of them anti-Semitic and many targeting anti-fascists, who have been highly visible at Portland protests. (The Daily Beast did not review any posts in which he expressed affinity for QAnon.)

“George Soros is known to have paid ANTIFA to instigate rioting and create chaos that has caused millions in damage across numerous cities, but especially Portland, OR,” he wrote on Facebook in 2018, citing a conspiracy theory that falsely accuses a Jewish philanthropist of paying off protesters.

In the caption of a video on the same topic, Fernbaugh mused that “I’m surprised no one has slaughtered these sheep that have grown horns (ANTIFA),” and recent posts boasted of “infiltrating” groups of Portland anti-fascists during ongoing racial justice protests.

Fernbaugh appears to wear the same jacket in one of the videos as the man identified as him did in the footage from the aftermath of the Portland attack. He currently works selling shooting targets, including one made to look like a person dressed as a Portland anti-fascist.

Multiple people who know Fernbaugh, including a former colleague, told OPB that he was the man featured in Keeler’s video from near the scene of the explosive devices. A former law enforcement official told the publication that, based on the voice of the man in the video, they were comfortable enough in his identity that they were calling the FBI.

Meanwhile, the larger online conspiracy community is sprawling—the top QAnon groups on Facebook, alone, count more than 3 million combined members, according to a . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 August 2020 at 12:03 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Guns, Terrorism

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